Yo! (en espanol)

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About Yo!

Obsessed by human stories, Latina novelist Yolanda Garcia has managed to put herself at the center of many lives. Thrice married, she's also managed to remain childless while giving very public birth to her highly autobiographical writing. She's famous for it. Now her characters want a chance to tell their side of it. And tell it they do! Everybody who's ever been caught in Yo's web from her sisters to her third husband can hardly wait to talk. The stories they tell on...

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About Yo!

Obsessed by human stories, Latina novelist Yolanda Garcia has managed to put herself at the center of many lives. Thrice married, she's also managed to remain childless while giving very public birth to her highly autobiographical writing. She's famous for it. Now her characters want a chance to tell their side of it. And tell it they do! Everybody who's ever been caught in Yo's web from her sisters to her third husband can hardly wait to talk. The stories they tell on celebrated writer Yolanda Garcia (known to her intimates as Yo) deliver delicious insight into the very nature of artistic creation and the material from which it is built.

Yo! is a novel about what happens when an author really does write what she knows. At once funny and poignant, intellectual and gossipy, lighthearted and layered in meaning, Yo! is, above all, the portrait of an artist. And with its bright colors, passion, and penchant for controversy, it's a portrait that could come only from the palette of Julia Alvarez.

Discussion Points

1. The one word title, Yo!, has three definitions: the first person singular pronoun, I, in Spanish; an exclamation used as a greeting, to express excitement, or to attract attention; and a nickname, short for Yolanda, the character on whom all of the other characters' stories are focused. It seems a particularly intriguing title, especially since Yolanda herself never has the opportunity to use the personal pronoun. Discuss this ironic nature of the title. Why doesn't Yo ever have a chance to speak for herself?

2. From time to time, Yolanda Garcia makes a big deal about being Latina. How important do you think her ethnicity is to her sense ofherself as a person and writer? Do you think she uses this ethnicity to protect herself from accountability in either culture? Does she use her calling as a writer in the same way?

3. What is the significance of each of the literary terms in the titles of the sixteen narratives? Why do you think the author chose to include them?

4. Expatriated from the Dominican Republic at the age of ten, Yolanda Garcia, daughter of upper-class exiles, finds herself driven to improve the circumstances of the servant and peasant classes back on the island. She goes to extremes, trying to share her U.S. education and ideals with those who are hired as her servants. How does this impulse fit with her sisters' notions of her personality? With the way her stepdaughter sees her? And the way her stalker imagines her? Which of these visions of Yolanda do you think she would most resent? Most appreciate?

5. Yo claims that men don't understand her bicultural self, that they prevent her from being a writer. Do you agree with her analysis? Half of the stories in this book are from the points of view of men. How successful is Alvarez in presenting the points of view of male characters?

6. Why do you think Yolanda, unlike her sisters, has never had children?

7. The various images of womanhood Yolanda Garcia embodies in the minds of her various biographers range from aggressive competitor to sexy glamour puss to frightened prey. Having read all sixteen versions of Yo, how would you characterize her? Which of the storytellers do you believe sees her most clearly as she really is? What do you think Julia Alvarez believes is truest of Yolanda Garcia?

8. Her various biographers accuse Yo of many transgressions in her pursuit of a writing career from her sisters who claim that she has exposed their personal lives to the public eye to her former student who believes she has plagiarized his work. What do these accusations say about where a writer's real life stops and her fiction begins? Is truth what really happened? Or is it something else altogether? What's the use of fiction, anyway?

9. Julia Alvarez has defined truth as all the points around the circle and plot as a quilt, which is a way that I think a lot of women experience plot, as opposed to the hero directed on his adventure . . . against all odds, doing what he needs to do. How does the form of this character novel illustrate her image of plot direction as relational as opposed to directional?

10. How do the various portraits of Yolanda Garcia and their different layers of meaning add to one another? How do they build to a crescendo in her father's narrative?

Recommended Reading from Julia Alvarez

I'm always reading a book, and I usually fall in love with something about that book if it's any good at all. I keep a diary of all the books I read, with notes to myself of what I liked or didn't like about each one. When asked what books I would recommend to readers of Yo!, I looked at the last five years of my reading list and picked a dozen fiction titles by my contemporaries, keystone books for me, books that taught me something about writing, and about the human heart.

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Kingsolver writes about post-sixties people (like me), still trying to live out promises we made to ourselves back then. There's an intimacy and genuineness to her style I truly admire.

Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina

A remarkable example of how to write about the most painful and devastating circumstances without self-indulgence, and with such accuracy of tone that the reader cannot shake the character's tragedy.

Russell Banks, Continental Drift

As for how to be a political and still tell a good story, this book gets that balance perfectly. It also taught me a lot about achieving irony by the juxtoposition of two different "plots."

Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Plotting a novel is not just about charting a series of actions but about plunging your reader into the rhythms of a character's being. I love this strange, lyrical book.

Gloria Naylor, Mama Day

This one taught me how to work a larger canvas. Naylor tells history, she tells a love story, a grandmother-granddaughter story, the story of an island, a community, and keeps all the parts stirring inside her readers.

Ron Hansen, Mariette in Ecstasy

With lyricism that weaves a spiritual spell, this novel taught me so much about tone and about the magic of naming and the power of precise details.

Elena Castedo, Paradise

A novel presenting the complex adult world from the fresh and delightful point of view of a young girl, it taught me about voice, and about the humor of hearing a story "out of the mouths of babes."

William Trevor, Reading Turgenev

This beautiful book made me want to create characters as sharply and fully realized as Trevor does. I even went back and reread some of Turgenev's stories so I could feel even closer to Trevor's characters.

E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

An author who knows everything. Among her many other gifts, I love her prickly, brisk, felicitous prose style. I kep a dictionary handy and learned a lot of new words.

Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries

I admired the way Carol Shields plays with truth and fiction, how the different traditional avenues of women's expression (from recipes to newspaper clippings) are used to convey the depth and passion of a woman's psyche.

Merch Rodoreda, translated by David Rosenthal, The Time of the Doves

This book is exquisite; a simple soul given voice with such freshness the reader believes she is feeling, not reading. It reminded me of Buson's secret to writing haiku: "Use the commonplace to escape the commonplace."

Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek

With her absolute brilliance of language and detail, Cisneros opened up doors for me by making me hear the music of Spanish in my English and by showing me ways of presenting characters who are also of two worlds.

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Editorial Reviews

Sally Eckhoff

Here's a newish angle on an old theme: a fictional biography of a person you'll probably never want to meet. Yolanda Garcia (Yo for short) is charming, soulful, a bit of a screwball. Her folks and her sisters - plus assorted aunts and uncles back in the Dominican Republic where she was born - adore her. But the grownup American Yo is an irritant, a born loudmouth and fibber whose specialty is getting other people into trouble. In other words, she's a writer, one of those people who, as Joan Didion said, is "always selling somebody short."

You don't have to share Yo's literary ambitions to understand her witchy charm. Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In The Time of the Butterflies, has a nearly irresistible way of portraying her poet-subject. Each chapter of this book is told from a different person's point of view, as if they all sat down with a tape recorder after a couple of drinks and uncorked their hidden agitations. Yo's mother, her frou-frou cousin Lucinda, the caretakers at Yo's old family place in the D.R. and a number of interested men are invited to spill the beans. Even her crazy stalker, a man she doesn't know, gets to have his say. They all believe she's selfish, yet undoubtedly trusting and kind. When Yo's (very personal) books get popular, though, these same people find themselves naked to the world, and they hate it. Still, they forgive her, because Yo has a knack for reconnecting people to the parts of themselves they've forgotten. She might even have the same effect on you.

Alvarez's style is blunt, but so light and eager it's absolutely captivating. Her eye for psychological detail can move the heart. And she's funny, too. Just one snag: Is writing such a sacred calling that it justifies Yo's casual destructiveness? At this book's least convincing moments, Alvarez comes close to saying yes. It's when she lets you consider her subject as a small, disobedient planet in the human galaxy that Yo! sheds the most light. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The opening chapter of Alvarez's splendid sequel to her first novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, is so exuberant and funny, delivered in such rattle-and-snap dialogue, that readers will think they are in for a romp. It is narrated by Sandi, one of the four Garcia sisters whom we encounter again three decades after they emigrated to the States from the political dictatorship of the Dominican Republic. As will all the other narrators in this richly textured narrative, Sandi focuses on her sister Yolanda, "Yo,'' the object of much bitterness and resentment in the family since she has begun to use their lives as material for the books she writes. In the succeeding sections, we flash back to Yo's first years in America, her school and college days, when she exuded pizzazz and potential as a brilliant, if capricious, student obviously destined for a spectacular career. Slowly the canvas darkens, as various people in her life (a cousin on "the island,'' the daughter of the family's maid, a college professor who is her mentor) create a composite picture of a clever, impetuous, initially strong-willed-but progressively self-doubting and insecure-woman who has lost her early promise. Instead of achieving emotional and professional fulfillment, at 33 Yo is lonely, unfocused, twice divorced, childless and still searching for her identity. Then come several surprising plot twists that leave Yo free to find her destiny. In addition to revealing the details of Yo's complicated life, the 15 chapters are also fully nuanced portraits of their quite varied narrators, whose own experiences range from adventurous to quietly heart-wrenching. Alvarez's's command of Latino voices has always been impeccable, but here she is equally adept at conveying the personalities of a geographically diverse group of Americans as well: an obese woman abused by her blue-collar husband, an ex-football player and an aging Southern hippy, among others. But it is Yo, rocketing among lovers, husbands, self-doubts, shortlived enthusiasms, dead-end jobs and the first tentative satisfactions of a career, whom we get to know obliquely but fully as she belatedly finds the center of her existence. Though her sisters have become fully Americanized, Yo has been the victim of cultural dislocation and of a submerged childhood memory revealed only in the last chapter; she has become a stranger to herself. Alvarez's canny, often tart-tongued appraisals of two contrasting cultures, her inspired excursions into the hearts of her vividly realized characters, are a triumph of imaginative virtuosity. This is an entrancing novel, at once an evocation of a complex heroine and a wise and compassionate view of life's vicissitudes and the chances for redemption.
Library Journal
Fans of Alvarez's debut, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (LJ 5/1/91), should be particularly interested in this intricately constructed, vivid new novel, but familiarity with the earlier book is no prerequisite for enjoyment. Brief episodes, each with a different narrator, coalesce into a portrait of Yolanda -- driven writer, blithe philanthropist -- the feistiest and most perplexing of the Garcia sisters. Yo's parents, a cousin, a husband, a landlady, servants, even a stalker contribute views of Yo's life from childhood to middle age in the Dominican Republic, New York City, and New England. These memorable, deeply interrelated short pieces introduce many alluring vignettes for the one story they combineuneasily and ingeniouslyto complete. The whole is as frustrating as it is satisfying but has much to recommend it: singular, well-realized characters; luminescent moments of story; Alvarez's artistry and poise. A fine addition for any fiction collection.Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio
Library Journal
Offerings in fiction represent a fine mix, from titles already published here in English (the works by Alvarez, Bencastro, Escand n, and Ferr ) to works due in English this fall (Allende's first fiction in many years) to Fuentes's latest, a recapitulation of 20th-century Mexico centered on the passionate and provocative Laura Diaz. Arte P blico continues its fine effort to restore lost Hispanic classics, written in what is now the United States from the colonial era until today, with a tale by Venegas dating from 1928. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-Yolanda Garcia, the creative third sister from the popular How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Algonquin, 1991), is the central character in this novel approach to fiction. Never monopolizing any one chapter, Yo is central to all of them. In 16 different stories, each titled with a literary genre or concept, her personality and talent emerge and develop through the viewpoints of those around her. Yo has been a teller of stories from her earliest years. She flits from an aborted academic career to working with prisoners, senior citizens, and children and finally to becoming a writer. She reaches out to those around her and touches them in subtle ways. Her culture and personality are intertwined. The family's Dominican roots surface through the stories told by Yo's mother, father, cousin, and the maid's daughter while the caretakers and farmer living in the Dominican Republic link Yo's past with her future and its immutable tie to her heritage. Alvarez draws sharp contrasts between cultures, economic status, and mythical beliefs in America and on the island. The underlying theme of the value of storytellers to a family's history is the final resolution in this well-crafted, entertaining, and provocative book.Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Kirkus Reviews

The devilish Garcia girls are back, in a warm, complex, rich and colorful third novel (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, 1991; In the Time of the Butterflies, 1994).

The focus is once again on the character of Yo, the oldest and seemingly boldest of the four little girls transplanted from the Dominican Republic to New York in the 1950s, when the upper-class Dominican Garcias fled their home to escape Trujillo's bloody reign. Yo, destined to become an autobiographical poet and novelist, is in trouble with her family when this latest novel begins for having published family secrets—writing about their mother's sneaky methods of scaring her young girls into obeying her, for example, and of their father's enjoyment of skiing naked. But, then, Yo's always been in trouble for telling the truth: When Trujillo was at his most treacherous, Yo's mother remembers, the seven-year-old girl discovered a gun in her father's closet and told a neighbor, a bishop loyal to the government. That led to the family's emigration. This time out the people that Yo, now in her mid-40s and a famous writer, has written about get to tell their side of the story. Her sisters, mother, old-fashioned, gallant father, ex-boyfriends, former professors, best friends, childhood nanny, and Dominican cousins—all remember and reflect on the kind, headstrong, superstitious, needy, fearful, or impulsive Yo they've known at various ages and stages of her life. The voices of Yo's family and friends are magical, and the details of life—first in Dominica, where the Garcias' wealth and social standing made daily life even under the dictatorship seem luxurious and safe, and then inthe hard years in New York—are fascinating, though the stories told here are sometimes puzzling and contradictory. Still, the writing, as always, is animated and wonderfully imaginative; the characters jump off the page.

A must-read for Alvarez's many fans.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786251902
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 5/9/2003
  • Language: Spanish
  • Series: Spanish Language Series
  • Edition description: Spanish-language Edition Large Print
  • Pages: 483
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia  Alvarez
Julia Alvarez is the author of five books of fiction, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, as well as a book of essays; five collections of poetry; and five books for children. She lives in Vermont, where she is a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College.
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    1. Hometown:
      Middlebury, Vermont
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 27, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

Table of Contents

Las hermanas / Ficcion 13
Parte 1
La madre / Testimonio 39
La prima / Poesia 62
La hija de la sirvienta / Informe 92
El profesor / Romance 123
La desconocida / Epistola 162
Parte 2
Los encargados / Revelacion 183
La mejor amiga / Motivacion 211
La casera / Confrontacion 242
El estudiante / Variacion 270
El pretendiente / Desenlace 297
Parte 3
Los invitados a la boda / Perspectiva 335
El sereno / Ambientacion 379
El tercer marido / Caracterizacion 405
El acosador / Entonacion 434
El padre / Conclusion 456
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Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, May 26th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Julia Alvarez to discuss ¡YO!.

Moderator: Tonight Julia Alvarez joins us to discuss her acclaimed book ¡YO! and the Spanish edition of IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES (recently published). ¡YO! is a hilarious novel that is the sequel to her book HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS. Welcome, Julia Alvarez! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening. How are you doing tonight?

Julia Alvarez: Fine! This is my first online interview. I am interested and curious.

Sarah from Alexandria, VA: Your character Yolanda Garcia and you have a lot in common -- both of you are immigrants from the Dominican Republic and writers. Would you say this character is autobiographical? Isn't yo the Spanish word for "I"?

Julia Alvarez: Well, of course I am playing with that, because I think that all characters come out of the well of their mind and hearts. I write about the people whom we are going to find out about -- the yo, or I. Of course, Yo is a part of me, but she is not me. I would not be so coy to call it fiction and not memoir. But I am certainly playing with that. What is called fiction and where the true story begins is what I am concerned with. I feel that fiction tells the truth more than the facts do. When you are writing, you are in the service of the story, not in the tyranny of what really happened. You enter the reality of the novel. Also, I think if you write about characters that are not included in literature -- a little girl in Latin America for example -- people think you are writing about yourself, because these are not the traditional characters in literature. These creations come out of your experience, what you have read, what you are really interested in.

Leslie Taylor from San Francisco: All of the characters of this book have such distinct voices and tell such great stories. Why did you choose to have so many narrators describe Yo? What were the advantages of this method?

Julia Alvarez: Well, I think that part of the strategy of the novel was to give the voice to the little people; like Andy Warhol said, we are all meant to get our moment of fame. These people don't usually get their point of view across, so this is a chance for them to tell their story in the form of the writer who usually tells the story of them. It comes out of themselves. In other words, we really find out about these characters and their stories.

I wrote a lot more voices that were not included in the book. There were some that overlapped a lot, and it was a process of finding out which would tell the whole story of what I wanted to tell -- which ones would create the quilting I was making of all these characters. I have been accused of not wanting to write about men, and that was part of the challenge in this book (for example, the stalker). There is a curiosity in the writer to take in all the stories. People focus on whether this book is about Yo or Alvarez, but this is really a book about storytelling.

Colleen from Portland, Maine: Are the sisters in ¡YO! and HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS based on real sisters? Perhaps your own?

Julia Alvarez: I certainly come from a family of sisters, so I understand that kind of family dynamic very well. I am a woman who took an unconventional path. I was really alone until I recently got married. I felt like my sisters and my family were my sisterhood. Sisterhood is a world that I understand. The whole relationship of women trying to describe a world for themselves in a place where this is not usually available.

James from Princeton, NJ: Your novels describe young immigrants trying to reconcile their Hispanic roots and the new American culture. I know that you also emigrated to America as a child from Latin America. What would you say are some of the biggest obstacles to acculturation? What do you see as some of the benefits to being an immigrant?

Julia Alvarez: I definitely think that language is a big one. If you don't understand the language, you don't know the story out there and whether you fit in it. It depends on the age when you come. I came when I was ten. I was a little human being -- I had already found a voice for myself but it was still forming. I came at an interesting border, when it is not quite clear what or who you are yet. There is not a black or white definition you can claim. Stories here are important -- that is their province. They allow for conflicting realities; that is why you have different characters. A good piece of fiction allows for that complexity. I came at that point. I hadn't been formed completely in another language and culture. In your own story, you come into the "new culture story," which you join as an immigrant. Some of the obstacles I found in the United States of America story were not like me. It didn't have me there -- just the guy with the Chiquita banana! I did not have the advantage of kids who can read Amy Tan or Toni Morrison and say, "Hey, that's me!" Thank God I was post-civil rights movement, so there was some sympathy and understanding of the others. The benefits: We are the 21st century. We are all so mobile. Maybe you are people from Vermont, and you have adopted a Chinese. Because of the mobility and meltdown of borders that you see in this culture, it is so rich. We have to think globally. We can have two languages and different ways of looking at the world.

Katrina from Richmond, VA: Yo infuriates her family by writing about them in her novel. What do you think about this situation? Do you think a writer should avoid writing about family or friends so they won't betray them, or is everything up for grabs for an artist?

Julia Alvarez: I certainly think we are human beings in a life with other people, and we are responsible for them. Mining the people in your life -- I am against that. See what's appropriate and what's right. Writers write out of their experience. But they also are other peoples stories. You have to be sensitive. The idea that it is all free rein is not a humane or professional way of dealing with the craft. But the people who know you will know "someone nervous who plays with the buttons on their shirt," or about "the little cowboy on your shorts." Of course, it is going to come from your life, and people will be able to trace that. People who know me and my books -- there is such a tendency to think that is me. There are always little trades. You see the context out of which the creation comes. I often think the real issue is whether the person already had an issue with you. It really isn't about the work.

Pamela from Albuquerque: ¡YO! is very funny. I found myself laughing out loud throughout the book. Did you intentionally aim to make your readers laugh? Do you find it more easy to write comic passages than serious ones?

Julia Alvarez: I really thank you for really understand the spirit of what I write. Sometimes I have been criticized for not being serious. People want me to write another book like IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES. But I say humor and laughter goes very deep -- sometimes more than serious fiction. We can realize the irony of something: What we laugh at is often painful. Humor is about seeing double. You see both sides. You see the humanness of someone who is supposed to be a great figure. Or you see the devilness. I am interested in that double vision. I think humor is very funny and very sad.

Stephanie Kriner from Arlington, VA: I understand that you also write poetry. Do you think of yourself as a novelist or a poet first? What draws you to write poetry? Do you find it more or less difficult than writing novels?

Julia Alvarez: I definitely began as a poet, and that is my first love. I keep going back to it as a place to get clean again or innocent, refresh the language. But I think of myself as a writer. What form that takes has so much to do with what is pressing on me and my heart at that moment. I try to find the right form -- letter, card, poem, whatever. I find poetry is a harder craft than fiction. I go back to that craft to rediscover the rhythm of the language. That is what is important in a novel -- whether the language is moving us.

Peter Wood from Portland, Maine: Greetings from a member of the Middlebury Class of 1971. The whole family enjoys your books! Was there a professor at Middlebury College who influenced your work?

Julia Alvarez: I was a transfer student. I only came my junior year. We were part of the '60s and a nontraditional year. We don't even have a yearbook where I could look you up! A professor who influenced me...hmmm.... Back then I was writing poetry. Bob Pack was the only poet at Middlebury, so he was the one of my greatest influences. His support and encouragement and generosity influenced me. Also, I transferred from Connecticut College, where teacher William Meredith -- who won the National Book Critics Award this year for poetry for EFFORT AT SPEECH -- taught. He was the first "creative writing" teacher I had. Also June Jordan, visiting that school for a semester, introduced me to nontraditional literature, which was a great influence.

Lyons from Newport: When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer? Did you write as a child like Yo?

Julia Alvarez: I actually wasn't a very literary kid. I came from a very nonliterary family. I never saw people reading books in the Dominican Republic. I was not part of an intellectual family but a storytelling family. I think that I got the love of stores and voice from them. My Aunt Sophie, who would hone her stories, and everyone in the family were always competing to tell the best story. I was not very good in school or very interested. It was not very diverse in what they taught you. It wasn't a place where story or imagination resides. For me, coming into another language and having to listen to it -- why one word was used instead of another -- these are all things you do as a writer. I was doing this as a ten-year-old. I became conscious of words and how they work. In America, public libraries were so accessible, and I found wonderful teachers who motivated me.

Melanie L. from Toronto: ¡YO! is a sequel of sorts to HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS. When you finished GARCIA GIRLS, did you imagine there would be a sequel? What drew you to write about the characters again in ¡YO!?

Julia Alvarez: I think that whenever you finish a book, it is still so alive for you, it is hard to put the characters away. If they remain and keep coming back, then there must be more to say -- they said that. It wasn't so much I planned it, it just evolved that way. You never know where the next book is coming, what is will be. Slowly you discover it if you listen carefully.

Monica from Philadelphia: Are there plans to make any of your novels movies? if so, would you write the screenplay? I can really see a movie for your book IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES.

Julia Alvarez: Actually for both GARCIA GIRLS and BUTTERFLIES, the options sold. When a company is interested, they will buy the options...but so much else matters whether they will get funding. GARCIA GIRLS is still in the works. I wasn't happy with the screenplay someone else wrote, and neither were they. IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES is farther along. They have gone down to the Dominican Republic and met families, et cetera. I don't have craft or training in the screenplay genre. I would like someone else to take it and make it work. Some books work and you fall in love with them. They speak for themselves. Like THE ENGLISH PATIENT. I have been asked whether I want to be involved in screenwriting, but I haven't wanted to. I want the next book. I dont want to be rewriting the book I have already written.

Paul from Morris Plains, NJ: Hello, Julie. I am curious to get your opinion on the recent controversy in the news concerning Hispanic children and the learning of English. Do you feel all children here in the United States should learn English in school? Why? Or why not?

Julia Alvarez: The reason I am a storyteller is that I don't have answers to things. Chekhov said that the job of the writer is not to answer the question but state the question correctly. I do not have solutions to a lot of these riddling questions about ethnicity and multiculturalism. I came to this country before bilingual languages came to this country. I was thrown in the big pool -- but I didn't drown. I had a lot of support and resources. Our culture needs to recognize that we are a pluralist society. What holds the culture together is a common language. Using English and being able to use it to tell your story is a very important skill. More and more in the 21st century, we learn more languages. I learned another language with the computer. It wasn't easy, because I didn't grow up with it, but you just have to learn it.

Colleen from Portland, Maine: I've noticed that there are many times in the book when you use a Spanish phrase or word and don't translate it. Is there a reason why you do this? I am fluent in Spanish and always feel that I am at an advantage because I can truly understand what the characters are feeling.

Julia Alvarez: My litmus test is ideally, if I have done my job right, someone who doesn't know any Spanish can understand my writing. The way I write the scenes, I hope it would give someone a sense of that culture and the meaning of the passage. I have a book of essays, SOMETHING TO DECLARE, coming out in September 1998. One of the reasons I decided not to use italics for the Spanish in this book was not because of me but because of my readers. I didn't want them to look at a page and feel left out -- only see a lot of italics. I wanted it to come upon them and get that pleasure as a reader that you get something. I wanted to let it seem so seamless with the English and Spanish together. It is something that you work on, though, as a writer. Hemingway did it too. What I don't want to happen is for the reader to be sort of blasted with something they dont understand and be blown out of the narrative dream -- that can happen in old English also. It happens often in translated work. I am aware I have to do my job well; I don't want to anglicize my characters just because they are strange or odd or a little different.

Moderator: Thank you for joining us tonight, Julia Alvarez. Do you have any closing comments for your online audience tonight?

Julia Alvarez: Thanks for calling up. One of the nightmares of this thing is if it is live and no one but your mom calls up -- so thanks for all the questions. And thanks for being my readers and caring about my work.

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